Ford Transit Trail: tough vans get grip-boosting differential and all-wheel drive

Need van-size loading capacity plus some pick-up-style off-road ability? Here are Ford's latest Transit Trail models that could fit the bill

Christofer Lloyd
Jul 31, 2020

Ford has unveiled tough new Trail versions of the Transit and Transit Custom vans, which offer not only a more rugged look, but the option of all-wheel drive for the Transit Trail to maximise traction in slippery conditions, plus a grip-boosting mechanical limited-slip differential for Transit Custom Trail and two-wheel drive Transit Trail models.

Thanks to the addition of this kit - which should help van drivers to more easily negotiate muddy work sites or gentle off-roading - you can expect to pay a premium for these models compared with standard two-wheel drive versions. You can also expect worse fuel economy with all-wheel drive models, due to the addition of the heavy mechanicals needed to link up the all-wheel drive system.

Meanwhile, van drivers after an SUV-inspired look but without the need for all-wheel drive are likely to be more interested in new Transit Custom Active and Tourneo Custom Active models, which feature SUV-style body cladding, a unique interior specification and optional limited-slip differential. Active versions of the Transit Connect and Tourneo Connect are also coming later in 2020.

2020 Ford Transit and Transit Custom Trail prices

Prices for the Transit Trail start at £35,685, with the Transit Custom Trail available from £29,250. Order books are open now with the first vehicles being delivered in late summer 2020.

Meanwhile, Active versions of the Transit are set to cost a little more, coming in at £30,000 for the Transit Custom Active and £37,950 for the Tourneo Custom Active. If you need the toughest, most capable Transit, rather than simply the toughest looking, then the Transit Trail is for you. Keep reading to find out why.

2020 Ford Transit and Transit Custom Trail models

Trail models are available in Transit Trail and smaller Transit Custom Trail form. Drivers can choose between panel van and double-cab-in-van body styles, all of which are powered by 130hp, 170hp and 185hp 2.0-litre diesel engines.

Meanwhile, those after a Transit Custom Trail can also opt for mild-hybrid versions with the same 130hp, 170hp and 185hp outputs, which should offer improved fuel economy.

The Transit Trail and Transit Custom Trail models have been engineered to cope with tough working environments. Two-wheel drive Transit Trail and Transit Custom Trail models gain a mechanical limited-slip differential to help them find the greatest traction on low-grip surfaces while all-wheel drive is available on Transit Trail models, offering even greater grip.

Helping these Transits to stand out from ordinary versions are Trail-specific interior and exterior changes. These include an oversized matte black 'Ford' grille with additional black cladding around the bottom half of the bumpers and side panels, plus Trail-specific 16-inch alloy wheels and 'Trail' motifs on the front doors. Roof rails and running boards are also available on the Transit Custom.

Active models, meanwhile, prioritise style changes over mechanical ones (though a limited-slip differential is optional), targetting those who need a van but value the butch SUV-style looks offered through the addition of new body-cladding.

Ford Transit Trail: all-wheel drive option

Drivers after a Transit Trail can choose between two- and all-wheel drive versions. Even if you go for a two-wheel drive version, though, you'll benefit from a limited-slip differential as standard, so you should be able to deal with tougher terrain than those with a standard Transit equivalent.

The differential automatically sends power to the wheel with the greatest traction, helping the Trail to keep moving on unpaved roads, gravel tracks and other 'challenging surfaces'. If you're after all-wheel drive, however, you'll need to opt for the larger Transit Trail rather than the Transit Custom. As this can send power to all four wheels, it offers an increased ability to cross rough terrain than two-wheel drive versions.

Ford Transit Trail: fuel economy

ModelCO2 emissions (NEDC)Fuel consumption (NEDC)CO2 emissions (WLTP)Fuel consumption (WLTP)
Transit Trail144g/km+up to 51.3mpg210g/km+up to 35.3mpg
Transit Custom Trail141g/km+up to 52.3mpg183g/km+up to 40.3mpg

Claimed fuel economy for the new Transit Trail models comes in at up to 35.3mpg for the Transit Trail and up to 40.3mpg for the smaller Transit Custom Trail. These figures are from the latest 'WLTP' economy tests, which should prove much more achievable on real roads than the old 'NEDC' figures, which are derived from unrealistic lab tests.

Ford claims that the limited-slip differential fitted to two-wheel drive Transit Trails has no impact on CO2 emissions or fuel efficiency, making the two-wheel drive Transit Trails a good choice for those who need ocassional extra grip to deal with rough or slippery surfaces but also want a van with the lowest possible running costs.

Ford claims that the limited-slip differential system fitted to two-wheel drive models is related to that used in sporty models including the Focus RS, Fiesta ST and Focus ST and so these models should prove equally capable on smooth roads. That differential also offers the prospect of greater traction when accelerating around corners, so those who need a van, but want the sharpest driving experience, should also value the way the Transit Trail drives.

Exact fuel economy figures are yet to be confirmed for all Transit Trail models, but you can be confident that all-wheel drive models will cost more to fuel and emit more than lighter two-wheel drive versions. Helping to minimise real-world fuel consumption for Transit Trail models that power all four wheels, the all-wheel drive system normally only powers the rear wheels, but is able to send up to 50% of the engine's power to the front wheels when the rear wheels lose grip.

This all-wheel drive system, therefore, puts less of a strain on the engine during normal on-road driving than those that power all four wheels all the time, resulting in lower fuel use than an equivalent system that powered all four wheels all the time.

Ford Transit Trail: equipment and off-road modes

Trail models all come with a long list of standard equipment including air-conditioning, a heated windscreen, automatic lights, power-folding mirrors and leather seats, which offer a more upmarket feel and should prove durable, thanks to their wipe clean nature.
 
Meanwhile, on all-wheel drive models the driver can select drive modes including 'Slippery' and 'Mud/Rut', which tailor how much power the all-wheel drive system sends to the wheels to best deal with a variety of surfaces. These are chosen using a Drive Mode selector mounted on the dashboard. There's also an 'AWD Lock' mode, which can split power equally between front and rear wheels for the most challenging surfaces.

Better still for most van drivers, according to Ford this system does not affect the Transit Trail's load volume or dimensions compared with rear-wheel drive equivalents. Bear in mind, however, that it all-wheel drive versions are very likely to weigh more than rear-wheel drive versions, so you can expect the payload to be lower.

 

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